This is the first year I’ve devised a reading challenge as a way to diversify my reading a bit. I used it as a guideline while also granting myself permission to abandon it if it became to onerous. I’m happy to say that I did not abandon it and that I’m judging my experiment relatively successful.
I had originally assigned a genre or category to a month, knowing full well I would be reading out of order. Because I’m a member of a book club and need to read assigned books, I also need to be able to read what speaks to me at a particular time.
There were three categories that I didn’t manage to complete and categories that I read for the first time and really enjoyed. There are some categories I would swap out for others, such as wanting to add a cookbook category. I loved every book (even when a couple of them made me uncomfortable) on this list and would recommend them without hesitation.
Memoir and Autobiography: Educated by Tara Westover
Since the weather has turned chillier, I’ve been on a reading binge. I’ve also been lucky enough to have been approved to read some Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) of book I’d requested on Netgalley. Netgalley helps out authors by offering ARCs to approved reviewers. And by approved reviewer, I mean someone who talks about books on social media. And there is little I like to talk about more than books.
First up is Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn! Available December 31, 2019 from Kensington Books.
Meg Mackworth’s hand-lettering skill has made her famous as the Planner of Park Slope, designing custom journals for New York City’s elite. She has another skill too: reading signs that other people miss. Knowing the upcoming marriage of Reid Sutherland and his gorgeous fiancée was doomed to fail is one thing, but weaving a secret word of warning into their wedding program is another. Meg may have thought no one would spot it, but she hadn’t counted on sharp-eyed, pattern-obsessed Reid . . .
A year later, Reid has tracked Meg down to find out how she knew that his meticulously planned future was about to implode. But with a looming deadline and a bad case of creative block, Meg doesn’t have time for Reid’s questions—unless he can help her find her missing inspiration. As they gradually open up to each other, both try to ignore deepening connection between them. But the signs are there—irresistible, indisputable, urging Meg to heed the messages Reid is sending her, before it’s too late . . .
If you love a slow, sweet burn, you’ll love this book. If you love talk of fonts, and scripts, and signs, you’ll LOVE this book. If you love New York as a setting, you’ll love this book. There’s also more to love because there is meat to this story. The characters work through some real life issues and face serious obstacles, make hard decisions. If you give this one a try, I don’t think you’ll regret it!
Second is Whiteout by Adriana Anders. Available January 28, 2019 from Sourcebooks.
Survival Instincts #1 With a storm coming and a killer on the loose, every step could be their last… Angel Smith is finally ready to leave Antarctica for a second chance at life. But on what was meant to be her final day, the remote research station she’s been calling home is attacked. Hunted and scared, she and irritatingly gorgeous glaciologist Ford Cooper barely make it out with their lives…only to realize that in a place this remote, there’s nowhere left to run.
Isolated with no power, no way to contact the outside world, and a madman on their heels, Angel and Ford must fight to survive in the most inhospitable―and beautiful―place on earth. But what starts as a partnership born of necessity quickly turns into an urgent connection that burns bright and hot. They both know there’s little chance of making it out alive, and yet they are determined to weather the coming storm―no matter the cost.
The action never stops. It’s a nail biter right to the very end. And I don’t know what it is about reading books that have snowstorms in winter when it’s winter for real, but I love them! This book has plenty of thrill and spills, well fleshed out characters and a remote research station in Antarctica. It doesn’t get better than that for this romantic suspense fan!
And third is The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner. Coming Out on May 26, 2020 from St. Martin’s Press
Just after the Second World War, in the small English village of Chawton, an unusual but like-minded group of people band together to attempt something remarkable.
One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England’s finest novelists. Now it’s home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen’s legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen’s home and her legacy. These people―a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others―could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from the recent war, others from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society.
I loved this book! And if you are a Jane Austen fan, you’ll want to mark down the release date, or better yet pre-order it because it is full of Austen goodness in the best way possible. It takes place immediately following the end of World War Two and the characters are all suffering from their own traumas. Through a love of reading, particularly Jane Austen, an unlikely group of people come together to preserve history and form lifelong friendships, heal wounded hearts…and more. It’s a gem of a novel that breaks your heart and then puts it back together. Definitely recommend it!
And there you have it! Three very different books but something for everyone. I would happily recommend all three of these books.
Tomorrow marks the end of another month and 2020 is a mere two months away! Autumn in Saskatchewan never lasts long enough to suit me and this year winter has arrived way too early. Tonight we’ll be carving pumpkins and tomorrow we’ll be setting them out on frozen steps or snowy driveways to attract trick-or-treaters. Well, hopefully not the tricksters…
Speaking of tricksters. I read a couple of great books in October written by a new-to-me author, Eden Robinson, who I met at The Saskatchewan Festival of Words this summer. Below is a photo of her interview with Jael Richardson. And let me tell you, she was has the best laugh! It fills a room and you can’t help but join in.
I started with Son Of A Trickster, Book 1 in The Trickster Trilogy, and finalist for The Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2017. I quickly moved onto Book 2, Trickster Drift, winner of the 2019 Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize. I loved these books and I can’t wait to read the third one when it comes out.
But for those who steer clear of books with serious accolades to their name, don’t worry.The beautiful thing about these two books is how very readable they are. If you like edgy coming of age stories with a paranormal bent to them, these books might just be the thing for you. Robinson deals with some heavy, tense issues in an authentic way and works at dismantling a lot of old and tired Indigenous stereotypes, and these books will have you smiling in places you least expect to. Add to that, Robinson’s way with dialogue is magic! Click here to read an excerpt! CBC (the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) is adapting a TV series from her books called The Trickster, set to air in 2020.
Meet Jared Martin: sixteen-year-old pot cookie dealer, smoker, drinker and son with the scariest mom ever. But Jared’s the pot dealer with a heart of gold–really. Compassionate, caring, and nurturing by nature, Jared’s determined to help hold his family together–whether that means supporting his dad’s new family with the proceeds from his baking or caring for his elderly neighbours. But when it comes to being cared and loved, Jared knows he can’t rely on his family. His only source of love and support was his flatulent pit bull Baby, but she’s dead. And then there’s the talking ravens and the black outs and his grandmother’s perpetual suspicion that he is not human, but the son of a trickster.
As my October recommendation, I urge you to go out and get the two books from The Trickster Series. Tomorrow night I’ll be handing out candy and sending out thoughts to keep all the little (and big) trick-or-treaters warm and safe. Happy Halloween to those of you who enjoy the shenanigans!
Until next time…
What book(s) did you read in October? Inquiring minds want to know!
Summer has flown by and I’m busy enjoying the last days of summer while embracing the cool evenings and the crisp promise of fall in the air. The harvest is coming in, the leaves are starting to change, and we had our first hummingbird at our feeder, not doubt preparing for the long trip south. The long weekend is this weekend and once that’s over it’s back to a regular schedule. Thank goodness.
The approach of fall always comes with a need to organize, to prepare, to wrap some things up and get ready to start different ones. I’ve finished the first draft of first book in my Whisper Creek series. The name of this series has changed yet again. The characters’ names have changed so often that I’m not sure who’s called what anymore. I love revising and can’t wait to really get started, I’ve puttered a bit in August, but now that my office has been reorganized and tidied up I’m really ready to tackle this draft into a story.
Speaking of stories, here are the ones I read or listened to in August!
The Break by Katherena Vermette
Omgosh, this book. It was heartbreaking and beautiful all at once and an ode to strong women. I loved the matriarchal feel to this book. It warms the heart and gives you a sense of hope, even in those dark moments that come to us all.
Brazen and the Beast by Sarah MacLean
Sarah MacLean is one of my go-to authors and I’m loving her Bareknuckle Bastard Series. Brazen and the Beast, Book 2, didn’t disappoint. In fact, I think it’s her best one yet. I loved Hattie! It’s witty, and clever, and rich in detail.
The House Of Shadows by Nicola Cornick
I love time slip novels! The House of Shadows not only time slips back to one time period (the early 1880s) but two – all the way back to the middle of the 15th century. And just like that, my love of medieval romances has resumed. Elizabeth and Craven’s part of the story was my favourite. I listened to this book on Audible and it took awhile for me to get into this story but I really enjoyed the second half.
The King’s Man: Welsh Blades, Book 1 by Elizabeth Kingston
I enjoyed the medieval part of The House of Shadows so much I went looking for a medieval romance. I didn’t always like the characters, particularly the hero. I wouldn’t call him an anti hero, which I generally don’t care to read about, but he wasn’t always kind with his words. I can’t decide if that should bother me or not. Neither the heroine or hero were soft or cuddling in any way. I enjoyed this book and will definitely check out others by the author. *The narrator, Nicholas Boulton, was very good.
What books did you read this summer? Did you have a favourite? Go ahead and recommend away!
Last weekend was the annual Saskatchewan Festival of Words held in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and it was my first time attending and I can’t figure out why. It was an awesome experience. I met so many wonderful people and fellow reading enthusiasts.
There were interviews, author readings, and panel discussions. I attended my first ever poetry slam competition. In this photo author, and sometimes guest host on CBC’s q, Jael Richardson is interviewing award winning author, Eden Robinson, who is also the owner of the best laugh around.
One of my favourite functions was the Dinner with Renee Kohlman, a Saskatchewan chef and food blogger from Saskatoon. If you get a chance, check out her wonderful blog, Sweetsugarbean. Also, Renee’s cookbook, All The Sweet Things, is a delightful mix of heartwarming stories, soft, bright colours, and beautiful recipes. We also dined with a delightful couple of ladies whose husbands had been RCMP officers (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) stationed in rural British Columbia. Talk about natural born storytellers, they regaled us with story after story.
I think the best surprise about attending the Festival Of Words was the connection I made with people from across Western Canada. People from places like Red Deer, Alberta; Swift Current, Saskatchewan; Edmonton, Alberta; Winnipeg, Manitoba; and the list goes on. People were more than welcoming and happy to include you in their group. Next year we’re going to win Trivia Night.
Until next time…
Are you big on summer festivals? What festivals are popular in your area?
Although I’ve managed to read, or perhaps finish is a better word, three books, I’ve spent most of my free time in June writing and trying to meet the writing goals I set for this month’s writing challenge. Thank goodness, the books I did have on the go were excellent and I recommend all three of them.
When Nikki takes a creative writing job at her local temple, with visions of emancipating the women of the community she left behind as a self-important teenager, she’s shocked to discover a group of barely literate women who have no interest in her ideals.
Yet to her surprise, the white dupatta of the widow hides more than just their modesty – these are women who have spent their lives in the shadows of fathers, brothers and husbands; being dutiful, raising children and going to temple, but whose inner lives are as rich and fruitful as their untold stories. But as they begin to open up to each other about womanhood, sexuality, and the dark secrets within the community, Nikki realises that the illicit nature of the class may place them all in danger.
East meets west and tradition clashes with modernity in a thought-provoking cross-cultural novel that might make you look again at the women in your life…
You’ll never think of certain vegetables (and some fruits) the same way again. Having said that, this book takes on some pretty heavy issues with compassion and humour. Nikki, a young, modern woman who isn’t sure what she wants to do with her life, applies for a job teaching a creative community writing class in a traditional neighbourhood centre in Southall, West London. When the women arrive for class, Nikki learns they are widows expecting to be taught English and literacy. An unexpected turn has these conservative Sikh widows penning erotic stories. I loved the characters, especially the widows. struggling to be seen in a world where they were no longer valued.
Think you know what it’s like being a baller’s girl? You don’t. My fairy tale is upside down. A happily never after. I kissed the prince and he turned into a fraud. I was a fool, and his love – fool’s gold.
Now there’s a new player in the game, August West. One of the NBA’s brightest stars. Fine. Forbidden. He wants me. I want him. But my past, my fraudulent prince, just won’t let me go.
Long Shot also deals with the very weighty issue of partner violence. Trigger Warning: There are some very hard to read and violent scenes in this book. But as someone who lives in the Canadian province with the shameful statistic of having the highest rate of partner violence, I wanted to read the book I’d seen recommended on Twitter. When both Sarah MacLean and Kristen Higgins recommended the same book, I listen. Long Shot gives an insight to what it looks like inside an abusive relationship, and what it takes to leave. I appreciated every moment of this story. The hard brutal parts and the soft generous parts. Iris and August will stay with me for a very long time.
Audiobook: The Candle and The Flame by Nafiza Azad
Fatima lives in the city of Noor, a thriving stop along the Silk Road.
There the music of myriad languages fills the air, and people of all faiths weave their lives together. However, the city bears scars of its recent past, when the chaotic tribe of Shayateen djinn slaughtered its entire population – except for Fatima and two other humans. Now ruled by a new maharajah, Noor is protected from the Shayateen by the Ifrit, djinn of order and reason, and by their commander, Zulfikar.
But when one of the most potent of the Ifrit dies, Fatima is changed in ways she cannot fathom, ways that scare even those who love her. Oud in hand, Fatima is drawn into the intrigues of the maharajah and his sister, the affairs of Zulfikar and the djinn, and the dangers of a magical battlefield.
Debut novelist Nafiza Azad weaves an immersive tale of magic and the importance of names; fiercely independent women; and, perhaps most importantly, the work for harmony within a city of a thousand cultures and cadences.
I’ve hit a sweet spot with audiobooks and that’s fantasy. It’s the only thing I’ve been able to listen to with any success. This debut book by an Canadian author didn’t disappoint and was delightful with an excellent narrator. There was rich description and engaging characters and a wonderful and enticing magical element. Fatima is only one of a strong group of female characters. There is a matriarchal feel to this book that I adored. Fatima struggles to fit in. She’s doesn’t quite fit into the struggling working class neighbourhood where she lives with her sister. Then finds herself facing the same alienation within the aristocracy of the palace, when her life is changed forever. I can’t wait for the next book.
Until next time…
Summer is upon us! What books have you been reading? Or any books to recommend?
We’re all busy. I think it’s likely safe to say we’re all stressed about something, too. But, if you’re like me, you have a pile of books waiting to help you relax. And we all know, at least we bookworms know, that summer is the best time for reading! Or that reading is a great way to leave life behind anytime of the year. But for those of us living in the northern hemisphere June is all about summer. Therefore, summer reading!
My summer reading list:
Five Tips To Tackle Any TBR Pile
Tip number one is to listen to more audiobooks! Fun fact: June is also audiobook month! My favourite place to listen to them is in the car, but I’ll also listen to them while doing some mindless chore, too. For some reason, fantasy and non-fiction are my go-tos with audiobooks. Confession: romance is harder because – sex scenes. I just can’t with the sex scenes in audio. In ebooks or paperbacks – heck yeah! But definitely check out how to access audiobooks from your local library, and here is Techradar’s Best Audiobook Sites for 2019. I’m currently listening to: The Candle and The Flame by Nafiza Azad.
Tip number two is to set a summer reading challenge. Or set a goal. Find a friend to read along with you. One summer our writing group read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. We all wanted to read a classic and it was fun to read along with others! So easy these days to set up a private Facebook group where everyone can chime in or you could get together every week to weigh in with your thoughts. Set up a group text. Then set some goals, like read this many chapters by this date, and away you go. Again, your library might have summer reading challenges to join.
Tip number three is a suggestion to sign up for Litsy! Book lovers unite on this social media platform. It’s like Instagram, only for readers. And with no advertising or promoting allowed. Great for book recommendations and for connecting with other readers. I also found a pen pal group. We’re called the #poutinepenpals. Because we’re Canadian, eh. This is also a way of keeping track of your reading. Disclaimer: there are some serious book lovers to be found there. As in some post monthly stats! And those stats are super impressive. Never thought I’d consider myself a slacker when it came to reading! Also, there are a lot of fun challenges to take part in, too.
Tip number four is to own your reading preferences! There’s nothing wrong with liking a certain type of book and sticking to that type of book. And don’t continue with a book if you don’t like it. That’s why the library is a great place to get books. You can quit a book and not feel guilty or pressured to continue to read it because you paid for it. Also, the library likely has some summer fun of it’s own happening and a good place to check out summer activities for you or any kids you might have in tow. Because we certainly want reading to be part of any child’s or teen’s summer activities. Let’s all be on our phones a little less and have our noses in a book a little more.
Tip number five is to branch out if you’re in a rut. Try something different. Again, the library is a great place to head to if you’ve lost your enthusiasm for reading. Ask for recommendations from friends. Or check out book review sites. Listen to a book podcast. Did you know that Reese Witherspoon has a book club called Hello Sunshine? Check out Modern Mrs. Darcy, who’s always ready with a book recommendation.
Until next time…
What’s everyone else reading? Right this very minute? Or hoping to read this summer?
Or, so the lyrics go. Not that the band Chicago had a family vacation in mind when they wrote Hard To Say I’m Sorry. But it’s true, everyone needs a break and some time away. It doesn’t have to be far, as in our case. Just far enough to feel like your in a different place.
“Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain
California or Bust
We left behind the snow and cold for the sun, water, and scenery of Encinitas, California. You can read more about the lovely coastal town and surfing mecca of Encinitas HERE. If I won the lottery I’d by a house on a cliff overlooking the ocean. That’s my fantasy. A place by the ocean. I can’t imagine the novelty of walking out my door and along the beach every single day of my life. Darn it, I’ll just have to settle for living in a province of a 100,000 lakes with beautiful sunrises and sunsets and plenty of golf courses. Poor me.
We didn’t rush about and fit in as much sightseeing and touristy things as we usually do. We settled into our VRBO and relaxed. We did visit the San Diego Botanic Garden which is an absolute treasure and it was lovely to see all the plants and flowers after a VERY long winter. We watched surfers, dolphins and pelicans from the hot tub on our deck. I drank my fair share of margaritas.
Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.
Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, mother, their teenaged son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.
I couldn’t put it down. It’s twisty and turny and you’re never sure who you can trust. It managed to take me by surprise and I loved all the old movie references.
Little does he know his started the moment he boarded The Boundless. The longest, most glamorous locomotive in the world, it stretches more than eleven kilometres long and pulls an astounding 987 cars: passenger cars, shooting galleries, gardens, an onboard swimming pool, cinema and much more. But its maiden voyage won’t be a smooth ride for Will. After witnessing a murder during a station stop, he barely makes it back onto the train (with a running leap!), then must work his way from the caboose forward to his father in first class – with the murderer and his cronies on his tail. Luckily, a clever and nimble friend is perfecting her act in The Boundless’s circus car, and there the real thrill ride begins. Sasquatches, bog-dwelling hags and illusions abound in this outsized adventure aboard the Titanic of trains!
This is a middle grade book that we read it to our daughter on this trip. It’s so good! Very Canadian, which I adore. A cast of colourful characters are in for the ride of their life as the Boundless traverses the Canadian Pacific railway not long after the last spike is nailed into place. Also, and people probably don’t know this about me, I’m a Sasquatch (Bigfoot) enthusiast. And guess what? There are Sasquatch in this book!
Until next time…
Where is your fantasy home located? Or share the name of a book you’ve enjoyed lately!
Well…March has entered like a lion in my neck of the woods with our area getting between 20 and 25 centimetres (8 to 10 inches) of snow. I know we’re not supposed to go on and on about the weather, because how boring, but holey moley that was a lot of shovelling. More so for Jack than me, if I’m being honest, which I almost always am. Also, a huge thank you to our snow blowing neighbours, of which we have three. Each of them took to heart the help a neighbour shovel out campaign and made runs up and down our sidewalks and driveway.
Also, of special interest to me as I’m the parent of a child with special needs, is the fact that March 7th marks the annual R-word: Spread The Word To End The Word campaign. We can all agree the R-word needs retiring, like other hurtful words that mock and malign have been in the last few years.
Bellewether is my favourite kind of book and reading it gave me so much joy. I didn’t want it to end. Very well written in Susanna Kearsley’s usual clever style, I fell in love with the characters and I also felt like I was given a glimpse into the every day life of the times. The book is set Long Island, New York, in both present day and during the last year of the Seven Years War . It also had a Canadian connection, which I very much appreciated.
The heroines of each time have both had their lives upended, both having suffered tragic personal loses. Charley Van Hoek is settling into her new job as curator of the Wilde House Museum when she learns of the long ago doomed romance between a French Canadian lieutenant, Jean-Phillipe de Sabran and Lydia Wilde. She is determined to include their history in the museum’s tribute to Benjamin Wilde, Lydia’s famous brother. Not everyone on the museum board agrees with her, but luckily the Wilde house is happy to help her figure it out.
Romance, war, historical intrigue, Bellewether has it all. And I didn’t guess the twist until the end!
*I received this ARC courtesy of Netgalley
* Book Available April 24, 2018
A bit about the Seven Years’ War
The Seven Years War (1756–63) was the first global war, fought in Europe, India, and America, and at sea. In North America, imperial rivals Britain and France struggled for supremacy. Early in the war, the French (aided by Canadian militia and Aboriginal allies) defeated several British attacks and captured a number of British forts. In 1758, the tide turned when the British captured Louisbourg, followed by Québec City in 1759 and Montréal in 1760. With the Treaty of Paris of 1763, France formally ceded Canada to the British. The Seven Years’ War therefore laid the bicultural foundations of modern Canada.
Have you heard of or read other books by Susanna Kearsley? If you like time slip novels, check her out! Also, please share your recommendation of other books who feature characters who differently abled!
Monday was National Tell a Fairy Tale Day and I’ll let you in on a not so little secret, Beauty And The Beast is my favourite fairy tale. Or, more accurately, the more modern Disneyfied version of La Belle et La Bete written in the 18th century by French novelist Madame Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve is my favourite fairy tale.
La Belle et La Bete VS Beauty and the Beast
One would assume the older version of the fairy tale would be the more gruesome and deadly. Surprisingly, it’s not. While the theme of learning to love, irregardless of appearances, is at the center of both tales, in the original the Beast is not being punished for a wrongdoing, he is the victim of an injustice. He refuses to marry his governess, an old and wrinkled evil fairy. so she curses him. A good fairy intervenes and promises a reversal of the evil spell if he can find someone to love his beastly self. She also camouflages the castle in a fog and puts everyone to sleep. Or turns them to stone, I can’t remember.
Also, there is no deadline in the original fairy tale. No fading rose. But a rose does cause problems in the original, as Belle’s father picks one for her from the Beast’s garden, to which the Beast takes great exception.
There is no Gaston, no Le Fou, no singing servants in the 18th century version. But there are costumed monkeys and birds. And, of course, both versions of the fairy tale include a courtship (with notable differences), and Belle does leave to visit her family in both versions. The Beast’s curse is broken in each and the handsome prince once again has his looks. But where the Disney version ends, the original has more to it. Mainly, a nasty mother-in-law who’s not impressed with her new daughter’s-in-law less than noble standing and a plot twist worthy of The Sixth Sense.